The tax man is under orders to beef up customer service after an investigation by MPs revealed the frustration of taxpayers dealing with HM Revenue and Customs.
MPs sitting on the Treasury Committee have reported on the administration and effectiveness of HMRC – and found the tax man wanting in several areas. HMRC blames PAYE mix-ups for the problems though.
The committee fears that if HMRC does not take steps to improve customer service, the organisation will lose respect with the public.
MPs identified three main concerns:
- Taxpayers face unacceptable difficulties contacting HMRC by phone during peak periods
- HMRC taking too long to respond to post
- Too much focus on online contact that excludes taxpayers without internet access
“There is considerable dissatisfaction among the public and tax professionals with the service from HMRC,” said the report. “This dissatisfaction has been building for some years now, and was reported on by our predecessors in the last Parliament.
“We do not accept the Department’s explanation that these problems are primarily the result of reconciling of multiple PAYE tax years at once. There is a serious risk that if communicating with HMRC becomes too time-consuming, difficult and expensive, respect for the tax system, and with it voluntary compliance, may be undermined.”
The committee has a number of recommendations to improve customer service for HMRC, including:
- Improving service from contact centres
- Looking at alternatives to online contact
- Making sure staff cuts do not impact tax expertise and administrative efficiency
- Halting the sending of threatening letters to taxpayers who have not done anything wrong
Staffing and morale in HMRC have also come under scrutiny – and the MPs suggest a lot of effort is needed to improve working conditions.
“HMRC continues to face major difficulties with staff engagement. While staff remain dedicated to their work despite the pressures HMRC is under, they have little confidence in the leadership of the department or that change will be for the better,” said the report.
“This has been a long running problem. While senior management are aware of the problem and have made efforts to improve engagement, there has been little evidence of any positive impact to date.”